PROTECTING THE INNOCENTS
There are obviously many influences in our society that we should protect our children from. Not only this, but we should ensure that those things we offer them as pastimes, as ways of spending their time, are wholesome, inspiring, good for their mental and physical health and that they encourage positive and rewarding social behaviour, like tolerance, generosity and patience.
I am absolutely amazed and concerned when I see ‘psychological horror’ programmes specifically aimed at children on the internet or on TV. I am deeply concerned about the degree to which children spend their time immersed in the abstract world of video games, many of which are combat-oriented, violent and brutal.
People often say “that’s just what children enjoy nowadays”, but we must remember that the market for such things has been totally created by adults; by those that create the games and those that advertise and promote them. Such things did not exist 30 years ago; we have completely invented this strange world for children. We have created a virtual world of violence and combat which, amazingly, many people deny has any affect on the child’s mind; on their psychology and on their view of reality. To deny this is to have absolute no understanding of children and how their minds work.
Children are incredibly easily influenced; far more than adults, who usually have a far greater degree of self-awareness and self-control, yet who are also affected by what they watch, what they play, what they listen to and so on. Again, the kind of music that is on offer for the younger generations to consume is also rich in aggression and disharmony, and on the whole staggeringly devoid of any sense of joy, happiness, celebration and upliftment, things which young people need as much as we do.
On the subject of films and TV programmes, I have seen many films with dark themes which are specifically aimed at children, including animated films. Without me knowing, my children were taken by a friend to the cinema to watch an animated adventure film, which they thought was child-friendly. It was terrifying, like a children’s horror story, and they had nightmares for some time after that. I have been aware of other films, even Disney films, which deal with Satanic and evil themes that should not be entering our children’s minds, no matter how old they are. This is exactly why we should be carefully screening what they watch and what they listen to. There are some very sinister and negative influences coming through all forms of media, and we have to be protecting our children from them. That is our job, and our children need us to do this, even if they may not ask us to.
So if you add this all together; violent, ominous and disturbing TV programmes & films (of which there are an abundance), violent, disturbing and aggressive video games consuming many hours of children’s time (often late at night), and aggressive, depressive or soulless music being pedalled by the mainstream music industry and streamed onto the children’s phones which they carry around religiously. They are literally being inundated by negative and disturbing messages, sounds and images which I assure you are affecting their minds far more than most people understand.
I have four children. I know how easily influenced children are, and how delicate their states of mind are. If you throw into the mix peer hostility, (including bullying), dysfunctional family relationships, lack of love and attention (and perhaps even parental hostility or abuse) then you have a very messed up child, who is being encouraged to completely lose touch with reality by the information directed at them by the ‘entertainment’ industry.
It is our job as parents to keep our children in touch with reality – with the beauty, enjoyment, and limitless potential for creativity and inner fulfilment that exists in life – by surrounding them with positive influences. Television, YouTube, Netflix and combative video games cannot be considers positive influences. We need to encourage children to spend as much time as possible in nature, even after school when they often just want to switch off and ‘zone out’.
Developing a love and appreciation for nature plays a vital part in keeping us in touch with reality. There is no substitute for it, because it speaks to our heart, and it nourishes our soul. You cannot replace this with any artificial experience, no matter how realistic it may be. Children need to move their bodies regularly in order to keep them healthy and keep their heart strong. Yes, children do need a strong heart just like adults do, as that child will turn into an adult. Positive influences in youth lead to positive consequences in adulthood.
We need to be active with our children at every available opportunity, going cycling, walking, running, climbing, playing sport or whatever we know our child enjoys. Children thrive upon activity, because they have so much energy. But what do the education systems and entertainment channels do to children? They bypass the body and focus on the brain, feeding it endless information, creating worlds of understanding, worlds of distraction that children can easily get lost in, forgetting the joy of having a strong and healthy body. All children need this. It is actually vital to their development.
After a school day of mostly sitting down and absorbing information, children do not need their evenings to comprise of the same thing. More sitting down, more cerebral stimulation in the form of TV, internet, movies, video games and so on. It is so very important that we encourage the physical health of our children to an equal or greater degree than cerebral stimulation.
We also do this by ensuring we have healthy food choices in our home, so that they are not living on a diet of fast food, crisps, chips, ready meals, pizza, chocolate and fizzy drinks. There needs to be some rules about eating wholesome and natural foods at meal times, and actually spending mealtimes together, so there can be interaction and communication, rather than further isolation and distraction, which is the daily experience of many children in the western world. We need to be available for our children, not always distracted ourselves by our phone, our emails, our business and so on. Our children need to feel that they are the most important thing in our life, and we show them this by putting aside other things when they request our full attention. Most parents relegate the importance of giving their child their full attention for extended periods. This is why it is good to regularly go out with our children, free of distractions, and do something fun with them. The importance of this cannot be overstated
If you do not spend enough time communicating and being attentive to your child, they will retreat into their own world, become isolated and shut you out. This is a real tragedy, especially considering that you are the one person that they would most like to have a deep and honest relationship with. You are their role model, you are their guide and mentor, their model of strength and integrity. If your child does not have you available, they will choose a pop star, a film star or even a fictitious game character. This is obviously not the best thing for them to do.
Just imagine your child (no matter what age) laughing happily, looking relaxed and enjoying their self. How often do you actually see them like that? This is your barometer for the emotional health of your child, and it is up to you to take responsibility for it, because nobody else will, not even your child, because they do not know what is truly good for them. They want to be popular, they want to be liked, they want to be cool, in the crowd, accepted as part of a group etc. Therefore, they will often do what everyone around them is doing, irrespective of whether it is good for them.
Marketing companies take total advantage of children in this respect. They know that children want to be accepted by their peer group, so they design and promote their products with this in mind. If there is a craze, like a particular video game for example, kids want to be involved innit so that will not feel left out.
This is happening at the moment with a video game called Fortnite, which is being marketed (to quite young children) as a fun, colourful and creative game which everyone should be playing. The promotion this is getting from almost all media angles is astounding, considering the game is based on the idea of a zombie apocalypse, and that you have to survive at all costs. There was even an amazing article on the BBC news website called “Seven Reasons Playing Video Games is Good for You”, which was overtly promoting Fortnite as a wholesome past-time for children. This article featured Fortnite at the very beginning of the article, again suggesting it was the worldwide new craze that everyone should be involved in. Of all thing to suggest, this article claimed that video games were “good for your child’s mental health”, and that they “help kids to mature”, among other amazingly bizarre claims. You can see the article for yourself here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/3vC526mylFr6PTz6MSfv6sq/seven-reasons-playing-video-games-is-good-for-you
Many unaware parents are falling for entertainment industry propaganda such as this, especially because the hours absorbed in computer games means more free time for them without their child needing their attention. It seems like a win-win situation. But it is not, because your child’s mind is being influenced heavily, no matter what age they are, and the messages are not positive, even though on the surface they may appear to be about saving the world, and helping people. Investigate the deeper psychological messages, and you will be shocked. Add to this the fact that real-world prize money has been introduced into many of these game, and you have a highly addictive and psychologically influential game that millions of children worldwide are playing for hours each day.
Now, you may of course think that such a game is just harmless fun, but the rules of the game and the subtle messages within the game about how to survive, how to thrive, how to interact with others, how to use aggression and violence to achieve the outcomes you want are affecting millions of impressionable minds every day. Even if the children are in their late teens, they are still being influenced, as they become absorbed in the reality and the rules of the game.
You see, society has certain rules that we subconsciously agree and adhere to. Politeness, respect, helping each other, not hurting each other, and so on. Such rules are part of our everyday reality, they are ingrained in our collective subconscious. Yet when people start becoming immersed in compelling alternative realities, like videos games (which are becoming more and more immersive), then our subconscious sense of what the rules are can shift very easily. Add to this the fact that all your friends are daily immersing themselves in the same alternative reality, then you encourage a shifting of what is acceptable treatment and behaviour through the collective experience of this different reality. So, if a game encourages aggression, tribal mentality and destructive behaviour for example, you will surely see a subtle increase of these attributes within groups of people who are spending alot of their free time engaged in that alternate reality (which is exactly what video games are). The more time they spend immersed in such games, the more their minds will operate along the psychology of the game, which has to be properly analysed to be understood. What are the rules? What is encouraged within the game? What behaviour is rewarded?
I am 40 now, but in my late teens I spent a lot of time with a friend playing a video game called “Grand Theft Auto” in which it was acceptable to steal cars and mow down pedestrians on the pavement (side-walk). This violent and worldwide popular game has now been going strong for many years. Is it a coincidence that in the past 4 years we have seen many instances worldwide of people driving their cars into groups of pedestrians on the side-walk? Perhaps it is, but perhaps it isn’t. This is not something that we saw happening before the advent of this particular video game, and we have had cars and pedestrians for a very long time.
Perhaps it takes time for “acceptable alternative reality rules” to gradually seep into the real world, and the more extreme they are (like running over pedestrians) the longer it takes. But who can deny that such a terrible thing has now become unsurprising when it occurs? We are getting used to it.
Therefore, not-so-extreme behaviours within games will certainly seep into the real world much more quickly, especially when hundreds of millions of people are playing the same game (and especially children, who have not developed a deeply rooted moral framework, like adults have). So if a game encourages tribal behaviour, conflict, deception and aggression, then I guarantee you will see these exact attitudes creeping into the minds and actions of huge swathes of young people very quickly, because they are much more socially acceptable than driving cars down pavements.
“So what if I deceive you”, a child might think, “that’s part of the game”. Children can very easily forget what is real, and what is not. Help them to remember what is real, and encourage them to enjoy the deep beauty, joys and riches of the natural world, rather than the mesmerising colours and sounds of the virtual world. Spend more time with your child, and keep them away from even remotely negative influences. Protect their innocence, protect their vulnerability, protect their pure heart.
“Develop the strength of your heart”
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I can’t agree more with your post. Actually, even as an adult almost the same age as you, I’m hard pressed to find something I like to watch on Netflix that doesn’t involve graphic violence or isn’t otherwise horrifically disturbing. It seems to be getting worse – more graphic violence, more sensationalist, all the time. This includes the news media too. I avoid nearly all of it now. We do need to be aware of the affect on ourselves and our children.
Yes. I recommend replacing all screen time with nature time, if possible, even if it means braving the cold & rain sometimes. Nature is the very best influence.